Last year, on New Year’s day, I set out on a challenge to try 100 different varietals of wine within that year. I felt this would be the best way to build up my palate for tasting wines, and for discerning different varietals; plus, in general, it was a fun research project for visiting Arizona wineries and trying all their wines, as well as exploring wines that I was unfamiliar with from similar terroir. (Which is where I discovered Saperavi, a Georgian tannic red that is a grape that I think will grow well out here, but that’s another story.) Anyway, to sum up, I succeeded, but decided: “Hey, why stop at 100? Let’s aim for 200. But I’m going to take some more time to do that.” The point is, like in birding, discovering a new varietal of wine is a lot of fun, but it’s especially cool when it’s a varietal you never expected to find where it was. So it was the case with this Roussanne, from Hannah’s Hill Vineyards, in the Sonoita AVA, which was varietal 106.
Hannah’s Hill Vineyards was one of my favorite vineyards on my whirlwind tour of Sonoita a week ago. They are largely weekend warriors (at this point in time) who have sought out to create a winery focused on three ideas: being local, being sustainable, and being participatory. So far, I feel like they’ve succeeded on all fronts. They are small, and welcome volunteer support and aid. Currently they are growing, along with Roussanne: Malvasia Bianca, Grenache Blanc, Grenache Noir, Mourvedre, Petit Sirah/Durif, Tempranillo, and Reisling. Most of their wines are estate grown and made, but they have a small partnership with a vineyard in Paso for a few of their wines.
Pebble Roussanne 2012. I like Roussanne, I’ve decided. It reminds me of early summer.
The Wine: Roussanne is a white wine grape grown originally in the Rhône wine region in France, where it is often blended with Marsanne. It is the only other white variety, besides Marsanne, allowed in the northern Rhône appellations. In the southern Rhône appellation of Châteauneuf-du-Pape it is one of six white grapes allowed, and in this case, it is also allows it to be blended into red wines. It’s not a grape that’s widely grown in Arizona as far as I am aware; other than Hannah’s Hill, I believe it’s only being grown by Page Springs down in Colibri and at the Dos Padres field, and at Dragoon Mountain Vineyard. The 2012 vintage was their second harvest of this grape from their estate vineyard. The wine was stainless steel fermented and aged, and not cold stabilized. It’s a lovely, clear greenish-golden color, denoting a medium-bodied white.
The Nose: The nose is simple but pleasing; it gets down to business with some apple, pear, and vanilla, with hints of orange zest, honey lemons, freshly brewed white tea, and the dry earth of summer intermingled therein. There are hints of complexity yet to come at this young age; nectarine and gardenia notes hint at potential to come.
The Palate: Cider apples and white tea is the predominant palate note, along with hints of pears, oranges, geraniums, and lemon zest, intermingled with some slight earthiness. It’s a very soft palate, with an excellent, velvety mouth-feel, with a medium-legnth finish.
Pairing: Most people seem to traditionally pair Roussanne with seafood, but I feel like this wine deserves a twist pairing–let’s go with some roasted quail, with a side of greek salad with feta cheese, no tomatoes.
Impression: I honestly can’t say how this wine compares to other Roussanne since I’ve not had any others, but I can recognize the taste profile from Rhone blends I’ve had before, and in that sense, it is quite comparable. The deceptively simple, yet no-nonsense taste profile reminds me of a straight-laced tall blonde woman in a powersuit masterminding a corporate takeover. It’s interesting to note that Roussanne has a history of being one of the few white varietals that ages well, up to fifteen years or so; it might well be worth holding onto a bottle of this wine for a while just to see what it does.
Suffice to say, I had a lot of fun when I was down there, and look forward to my next visit and a future podcast with these guys. You should definitely check these guys out when you’re down in Sonoita/Elgin the next time around, and check out their website at http://www.hannahshill.com/
The Hannah’s Hill crew